This is very much a preliminary review, since I've only had the album a few days, but I can already tell that it's a record I'm going to fall in love with. Will Oldham's last album, "Master and Everyone" was by some distance the musical highlight of 2003, a cracked voice singing quietly and peacefully of a variety of moods of love, from resignation to raging against the dying of the light. This has a different tone - where Master and Everyone was alt.folk, this one takes a sort of Nashville turn.
The very idea of an artist's alter-ego recording cover versions of songs done when he was recording as a different incarnation is cool as hell - the only way you could imagine it is if Ziggy Stardust were somehow doing an album of covers of Bowie's eighties big-suits and slick-hair songs like "China Girl"
The lyrics, as ever with Oldham, are full of wit, warmth, imagination and spite in equal measure - "If you have no-one, no-one can hurt you", being sung in a voice that really puts across how badly hurt you must have been to think like that, while still knowing the underlying foolishness of the sentiment.
It is very weird to hear Bonnie Prince Billy with music in the background though - where he's normally sparse, even minimal, in the musical arrangements, here there are pianos, guitars, even a bit of jollity in the music, proper Nashville country stuff. His voice, which I understand he deliberately strains by mistuning his guitar to get that sound of effort and crackedness, is as compelling as ever, he sounds in places quite like Van Morrison.
I don't like Nashville country, I don't like Van Morrison, but I absolutely adore this. If you've never heard any Bonnie Prince Billy, go for Master and Everyone first, but if you bought that and liked it, this is certainly well worth the money. Some albums you buy and know that you'll still be listening to in a year's time, and this is one of them.